Monday, February 04, 2013

Before Five in a Row--Blueberries for Sal

Last week's Five in a Row book was "Blueberries for Sal."  I'm glad I chose this book because I just love the story.  Plus, I have a very dear friend in Texas named Sally who Micah remembers well because he loves her daughters.  This book reminds me of my Sal.

Lest you think our projects are all gumdrops and lollipops, I will say that this week and this book proved to be a tough one for us.  It's very long, so I found myself rushing to get through it before Sam's attention span timer ran out.  We did have a daily vocabulary exercise during reading time to break up the story.  McCloskey always uses the word "hustle" to describe how Little Bear moves, so we took a few hustle breaks to get out some little boy angst.

Our project for Monday was to make paper blueberry pies.  Since my pack of construction paper I brought back from the States surprisingly didn't have brown, we resorted to yellow crust on bottom and crayon-colored crust on top.  Since I have never even fathomed attempting to make a pie here, I had to do a Google image search for pie pictures to give the boys an idea of what we were making.

Scissors were a big hit as we cut out strips for the crust weave on top.  (Is that what you even call upper pie crust?  It sounds like a gross hair-do if you ask me.)

After cutting & gluing the crust pieces, we added blueberries with a blue ink pad.  The blog that I stole this idea from suggested using paint.  If you haven't noticed, I'm still a little shy about using paint with the buddies yet.

Then the boys went to put their pies in the oven.  We did not have a lesson on converting Fahrenheit to Celsius, which would have been necessary if we were really baking as my oven only runs on Celsius.  As soon as the boys left the kitchen, I took the pies out.  Our house helper is still a little scatter brained when it comes to western cooking with strange appliances like ovens, and I surely didn't want to deal with a burning paper debacle if she happened to need the oven that day.

On Tuesday, we skipped our project because one of my best, good local friends came over with her daughter.  I've known Lisa since our first month in China and was immediately won over to be her friend when she told me I looked like Meg Ryan.  Application point: when trying to win friends & influence people, compare them to movie stars.

I've loved watching the boys become 朋友 with Chinese kids here.  Too bad for them that almost all of the kids they've met so far have the same name.  I guess it will be just as confusing to them as it is to our Chinese friends why all the Americans here are either named Rachel or Kevin.  Despite the confusion with names, playing dress-up is apparently a very cross-cultural activity.

On Wednesday, we baked blueberry muffins.  To most people, that seems like a pretty straight-forward endeavor.  But, then again, most people live within a stone's throw of a grocery store that sells reasonably priced blueberries.  The only reason I was able to pull this off was because my dear friend April hoarded all the blueberries when they were available for one week out of the year. And she was kind enough to share them with me in the name of education!

My friend XL came over that day to help us out.  I've also been trying to figure out how I'm going to devote myself to my main priority of being a wife & mom while still connecting with locals here.  It's kind of like having two jobs, and it's not easy!  I've been trying to invite women I know into our home to hang out or join in on whatever craft or baking activity we have going on that day.  It doesn't necessarily lend to great conversation ("chat, chat, chat, Sam, stop eating the batter!, chat, chat, chat, Micah, cover your mouth when you sneeze!") but at least it's a start.  

The muffins were tasty and well worth the investment of import butter and borrowed blueberries.  In fact, I ate three that day.  

Ironically enough, the lunch we had with my friend & our house helper before the muffins were served involved several comments about how thin they think I am and inquiries as to how much I weigh.  I hate, hate, hate these types on conversations, so I'm always looking for ways to graciously deflect.  During this particular conversation, I told them that my weight isn't very low because I have a lot of muscle from running & exercising.  This comment elicited peals of laughter from both of them.  The word for muscle actually sounds the same as the word for chicken, so I was terrified that I had just told them that I have fowl all over me.  But evidentially what was laughable was a woman having muscle at all (in my opinion, women here are kind of wimpy when it comes to working out).  After a morning of chatting in Chinese while trying to bake and wrangle my little people, I didn't have the energy to try to explain to them that muscle actually promotes weight loss.  And then I ate three muffins to underscore my point.

On Thursday, we sprung off one of the pages at the beginning of the book where Sal & her mother first arrive at Blueberry Hill in their classic-looking car.  This book was written in 1948, and there are traces of the time period throughout its illustrations.  We looked at pictures of old & new cars on the iPad, and I talking with Micah about observing differences & similarities.  We practiced sorting his collection of cars based on color, counted them, and made a chart.  

On Friday, I wanted to focus in on the characters in the story, especially the more obscure animals that the boys aren't too familiar with.  We watched some YouTube footage about crows & partridges, listened to a crow caw from an online recording, and learned that crows eat frogs.  Then Micah requested to see a picture of that.  Sure enough, you can find pretty much anything on the internet!

I also made character cards of Sal, Mother, Little Bear, Mother Bear, crows, and partridges by making photo copies out of the book and gluing the pictures to index cards.  We played a relay game where I said an animal and they had to hustle/fly/flap/walk to the couch to pick up the appropriate card.  We're still basically on house arrest because of the pollution, so I'm always on the hunt for indoor ways to get them moving.  I had intended to play memory with these cards, but that didn't work out at all.

I also made a counting game using blue pom-poms as blueberries and a cardboard bear head with its mouth cut out.  I had exactly 10 blue pom-poms, so it made me turn into a bit of a neurotic mom every time we played because we had to find every single one.

Despite the rocky week with attention issues, I'm still really glad we're pressing on in doing this.  I have been so pleased to see Micah begin to love books more & more.  He will sit by himself and "read" for at least 30 minutes, which seems like a long time of independent activity for my guys.  He makes connections between books we've read in weeks past and will retell the stories to me.

Sam, on the other hand, still likes to chew on baby toys.


Anonymous said...

Sorry to be a stalky blogger person, got your blog from a friend before we came to China, we've been here 6 months, in Harbin. I started out doing BFIAR when we first moved here but lost momentum, so you've inspired me to start back again this semester!! blessings to you and your family!

Chris & Sarah Peek said...

Okay, so I only got about 1/3 of the way through your post before I started to think, my SIL is off the hook. My poor kids. I just let them run around all day. They'll never be able to read! or compare/contrast! or chart! Can I send my kids to Becky summer camp?

Rachel said...

This is really fantastic, Beck! I'm so impressed with your extensions of the book through activities, and also how you've kept it manageable and bite-sized for everyone's sakes. I always felt it was hard to find crafts/activities that the kids themselves can actually do--not you as the mom having to do most of the steps so that they can have a fun looking craft at the end. but it looks like you're doing a great job of that. And how fun that you're already seeing them love to read books! That is so great! I loved all the pictures too; esp of Lisa and her daughter who looks like her, I think. Also, I recognized some of those cars/trucks! How fun. Keep up the excellent work and having fun with it too. Love to you all, Rach

Brandon and April said...

I think last week I mentioned that we're going to have to borrow that book since we've never read it...but see, now, I guess we don't because you've given me the Cliff's Notes version! :)
Did I mention last week that when we were doing Edward Built a Rocketship my kids were sooo confused as to WHY we were reading the same book EVERY SINGLE DAY. funny...those kids. :)
great job beck! lets do a craft day together one day shall we?!